Monthly Archives: September 2016

Where Do the Best Thoughts Go?

I seem to have all of my best thoughts when I’m not in a position to write them down.  Driving is a prime example.  Music blasting, the open road, surrounded on all sides by awesome cloud formations, and the ideas just come flooding in – but I’M DRIVING, so I can’t write them down.  I actually bought a mini tape recorder so that I could dictate my thoughts, but that turned out to be more trouble than it was worth.  First of all, it was a cheapo machine and didn’t have one-touch operation – I had to push one button this way and another two buttons that way, and then make sure that the reels were moving, which I couldn’t do if I was on a parkway, say, which is where the inspiration usually strikes.  Then the battery would die because I would keep the recorder poised and paused, ready for me to use as soon as an idea came upon me, and then forget to turn it off.  And then, of course, I have a whole drawer full of mini-cassettes that need to be transcribed, if there is even anything on there.  On a few occasions when I’ve tried to listen back, there was actually nothing on the tape at all, which completely defeats the purpose.

I also have great thoughts when I’m power-walking.  I’ve got the music playing on the headphones and a strong rhythm to my gait, my blood is pumping and the ideas are flowing profusely – but I’M WALKING, so I can’t write them down.  However, I do have my iPhone with me, because I use the timer and step-calculation function to keep track of my walking, and I think my iPhone does have a dictation feature.  Maybe I should try using that to record my thoughts while I’m pounding the pavement (or the boardwalk, as the case may be).

Some of my most ingenious thoughts, though, come when I’m in the dentist’s chair hooked up to the nitrous oxide, but in this circumstance, I’VE GOT SOMEONE’S HANDS IN MY MOUTH so I can’t write down the shimmering bits of perfection that ping-pong around in my brain when I’m breathing in the sweet air.  Just this past week, I had two brilliant notions:  (1) I wish I had a device like Stephen Hawking has, where a robotic voice that seems to dictate his thoughts as he’s thinking them.  Although , without doing more extensive research on the device in question, I am almost certain that what’s really happening isn’t that the machine is reading his thoughts, but rather that he’s using his optical system (actually, I think it’s his cheek muscle) to somehow type on a keyboard what he wants to say, rather than having a direct line to the thoughts from his brain.  (2) I realize there would probably have to be health code regulations in place, but why couldn’t tattooers offer nitrous to their clients who wanted it?  Used properly, it’s completely harmless and would relax the human canvas while he/she is having the painful work done, and the tattooer wouldn’t have to deal with so much movement and tapping out when the canvas can’t take the hurt.

[An aside:  A new season of “Ink Master” has begun.  This season features a competition between teams assembled by each of the tattoo artist judges, Oliver Peck and Chris Nuñez.  (Dave Navarro, host and the third judge, is merely an aficionado – his talents lie on the guitar side of art.)  I confess to having a huge crush on Oliver Peck, with his ponytail and Yosemite Sam mustache, only-top-button-done shirts and ever-present toothpick.  Every time I watch “Ink Master”, I want another tattoo.  My next piece is going to be a cover-up/modification of the laurel wreath encircling the yin-yang on my shoulder [see “Tattoo Me”, 6/10/15].  I might try a new artist this time, even though I love the pieces that Liana Joy of Empire State Tattoo in Oceanside has done for me.]

Underlying all of this lost genius, of course, is my memory (or, more accurately, the lack thereof).  If I could just REMEMBER my thoughts so I could write them down as soon as I got home, I wouldn’t have this problem.  But for whatever reason – age, prolonged marijuana use in my youth, early onset Alzheimer’s – once I’m out of the car, or across the threshold, or (unhappily) getting oxygen pumped through my nose piece – the great ideas are often gone.  Just GONE.  Poof.  Maybe they will be revived in some other context at some other time, but unless I quickly write them down at the earliest opportunity, or unless it’s a REALLY good thought and I literally can’t get it OUT of my head, the thought will be released into the ether, and whether it will return remains a mystery.

That’s certainly something I value about my journals:  They are literally the repositories of my thoughts, a hard copy of my memory.  If I had the time (or, I should say, WHEN I have the time), I could pick a journal from any year, from 1979 through today, open it up, and know exactly what I was thinking on that day.  I’ve written about my journals previously on this blog (“My Life in Journals”, 8/17/16), and I long for the day when I can just lazily pore over every word, looking for those golden thoughts and brilliant (if I say so myself!) ideas that I managed to commit to paper before losing them.  I’ll then use them as fodder for future essays or articles or stories or even poems (although my poetry has always been pedestrian, at best).

A random sample, grabbed from my “Small Notebooks” collector box, from March 15, 2008, while attending my firm’s All Lawyers’ Meeting in Florida:  “(later, at a ‘speed networking’ event) One beer goes straight to my head, even on ice.  I’m very bad at standing and holding a drink.  I’m much better off when I can sit down at a table, or at least stand next to a table where I can set my drink when my hand gets cold and wet.”  I could maybe turn that into a whole blog post about my social awkwardness, how I’m so friendly and comfortable one-on-one but when you throw me into a group setting, I turn into a shy wallflower.

Ah, someday, I’ll have the luxury of recapturing my memories and using them to create art.  But until then, I’ll just have to figure out better ways to memorialize them, using mnemonics or technology or the discipline to hold them in my head until I can get to pen and paper (or fingers to keyboard, but I tend to scribble my thoughts rather than type them, even though I am a pretty fast typist).

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A couple of thoughts about this week’s presidential debate, because it’s been heavy on my mind.  I knew Hillary would be better prepared, but for some inexplicable reason, I dreaded it, because Trump gets away with figurative murder and no one calls him out on it except left-leaning comedians.  And even when his lies and inadequacies are exposed, his supporters seem not to care.  Damn the “facts” and what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears!!  They just have a “feeling” about him or, more commonly, about how horrible Hillary is, which is another thing I do not understand.  I’ve read a number of think pieces on it, and I do think her femaleness is at the root (for a good analysis of this, see Larry Womack, “Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton”, The Blog, The Huffington Post, 9/26/16 [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-womack/stop-pretending-you-dont-_b_12191766.html]).  Don’t these Trump supporters realize they’re being played??  Trump doesn’t even WANT to be president.  He just wants to WIN.

But in the end, reason prevailed.  By every measure (despite the seemingly intelligent woman interviewed post-debate who believed it was a “draw” and that Trump showed himself to be a “man of action, an agent of change”; how any sane person could say that Trump performed well in this debate is incomprehensible to me), Hillary was the big victor in the much-anticipated showdown.  The man was unhinged!  He couldn’t put together a coherent sentence or thought.  Bragging, complaining, doom-and-glooming (“inner cities are hell”, our airports are “worse than the ones in third world countries”, he said, among many other things that he called “terrible” or “bad”), with nary a constructive suggestion to fix any of it, apart from his tax cut for the rich.

Whoopi Goldberg called Trump out on his inability to complete a sentence this morning on “The View”, which I caught for a brief moment while looking to see if pre-season Rangers hockey was on TV tonight – which it was!  It’s so great to watch Rangers hockey again and get excited about the coming season!  The NHL’s exhibition World Cup of Hockey was a tease, especially that exciting Team North America overtime win over Sweden last weekend, but now it’s time for REAL hockey.  And I’m also overjoyed that Optimum, my cable TV provider, has restored the real-time pause and rewind functions.  Now if they could just come up with the technology to link the DVR recording to the actual TV show so it never cuts off early and you don’t have to manually add 2, 5, 15, or 30 minutes to the “ending time” of a show, or when football games go long and delay the start time of shows.  But I can’t get greedy.  I’m certainly grateful for the improvements thus far.  I love having the ability to rewind and re-watch a good goal, and then be able to skip the inevitable car commercial — live!!

Four Kitties

When we hosted Jordan, one of the cats from the shelter, during the storm-that-wasn’t a couple of weekends ago, it occurred to me how territorial my cats are, especially given the tight confines of a one-bedroom apartment.  They have clearly staked out their favored spaces and, being creatures of habit, they don’t stray much from those spots.

The cat of longest standing in this household is Raven.  She is an unapologetic diva, the Queen of the Bed, who spends all day on top of or under the blankets in my bedroom.  Making the bed with Raven is always fun.  At one point I used to have a bunch of throw pillows neatly assembled against my headboard but Raven made it a point to toss them all around, even though some of them were probably bigger than she is.  (She is on the petite side.)  She does deign to allow the dogs and me to sleep there at night, but we have to put up with her walking all over us until she finds her perfect sleep position.  She also wanders around on my night table and knocks stuff off, which causes Munchie to bark and me to have to get down on my hands and knees in the morning to find what fell under the bed.  Nighttime is an adventure with Raven, but occasionally she will just settle in for a cuddle, and all is right in Raven’s world.  She is the boss of us.

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Luna is my desk cat.  She lies on top of my work papers and my desk calendar and the mini-notebook where I write down my spending as if they are comfortable little pillows, and she never gets angry when I gently remove whatever it is I need at the moment from underneath her.  The real bonus to having a desk cat is the ability to reach over at any time and give her a tickle on her chest and tummy, which are incredibly soft, like angora fur.  Sometimes she’ll grab my hand in her paws and pull it toward her, hugging it, careful not to extend her claws.  However, she is also a kneader, which IS painful because she DOES use her claws.  Most of her kneading takes place on the couch or occasionally the bed, if Raven is feeling generous and lets her on there.  I have to inch away or bunch my clothes or the blankets under her reflexive retracting fingers to avoid the pinches.  But she doesn’t care; she’s just expressing her extreme happiness.  Who am I to deny her?

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Newest arrival Mimi has at least three favorite spots, all in the living room, not including under the couch where she vanishes every once in a while, perhaps when she needs a moment of peace in what can sometimes be a chaotic household (although more often than not, on a typical weekday, I’m at the computer working and/or reading, the radio is tuned to Carmel Holt on WFUV, and everybody is peacefully asleep).  She likes to lie on the big standing boxes that hold my framed pictures (which I never unpacked but just leaned up against the wall under the window in the living room) so she can get the benefit of the breeze and keep an eye on the birds.  She also enjoys draping herself over the back of the chair, which doesn’t look all that comfortable but she doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact, that seems to be her prime “yelling at Mommy” position when it’s time for breakfast or cookies.  Her absolute favorite spot, though, is on top of the back of the couch.  If I sit in front of her, she has to touch me, maybe just to let me know she’s got my back.  Mimi is a great cat.  I’m so happy I took her home so she’s able to live out her golden years in utter contentment.  Clearly, she relishes her role as the guardian of the living room.

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Last but not least, there’s my soul cat, Savannah.  Savannah is the bathroom cat.  She spends most of her day in the bathroom doorway or curled up on a box just outside the door so she will be sure to see me any time I head in that direction.  She always has to be in there with me; she is the leader and only permanent member of the bathroom entourage, making sure I never relieve myself alone.  And if I accidentally close the door before she notices I’ve gone in, she busts her way through or, if it’s latched, scratches and jiggles the doorknob until I let her in.  She’s been known to hang out in the sink, especially in the summer, when the porcelain is cool.  When I brush my teeth, she stands on the toilet and reaches out to me – “Give me some pets, please!  Rub my face!” – and how I can resist?  I cannot.  She often presents her enormous belly for stroking, a position that isn’t limited to the bathroom.  She is like velvet, more plush than even the most expensive stuffed animal.  She is the cat I share my most intimate moments with, the only living thing that has recently seen me naked!

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So even in a little space like this apartment, the girls have all staked out their personal private areas, but one thing is clear:  They all like to be near ME.  They don’t pay much attention to each other, or the dogs, but they sure do love me.  And the feeling is definitely mutual.

P.S.  Let’s not forget Jojo, Raven’s sister, who is down in Morgantown with Darian, keeping her company and being her “emotional support animal” while she’s away at school.  (I read an article recently in the ABA Journal, of all places, about college kids needing “emotional support animals”, so evidently it’s a thing.)  I’m grateful for Jojo, who has always been Darian’s cat, living almost exclusively in her room when she wasn’t trying to escape for outdoor adventures or sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets.  Darian actually brought her to the vet today because she’s had a little cough, which might be asthma or might be allergies.  In general, the vet was surprised that she was nearly 12 years old because she’s so healthy and presents much younger.  Good old Jojo, giving my kid comfort far away from home for years to come!

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Small Steps

Well, I’ve officially begun my walking regimen, and now that I’ve written it publicly, I have to stick to it!  I’ve started small, with 20 minutes a day, but I’ll try to quickly ramp up in intensity.  Ultimately, I’d like to keep it around 30-40 minutes, five times a week.  With the upcoming hockey season in mind, I’ve determined that I will walk the dogs at 5:15 p.m., watch the 5:30 p.m. local news, and then walk on the boardwalk from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on game nights.  That way, I can get organized and prepare dinner during the pre-game show and then settle in to enjoy my favorite way to spend three-plus hours on a typical weeknight:  New York Rangers Hockey.  (It’s their 90th anniversary this year.  I’ve been following them for a little more than half that time, going on 50 years, which is pretty damn scary when you think about it.)  I can’t wait for the season to start!  This World Cup of Hockey exhibition being put on by the NHL as sort of a pre-training camp warm-up is just a tease; bring on the real stuff!  Less than a month to go!

My sister had given me a Fitbit last Xmas.  It was NOT on my list – the only thing on my list, EVER, is iTunes and Amazon gift cards so I can buy music and sometimes books – but my generous sister always manages to get me something extravagant for which I have no real need or desire.  (Believe me, I am ashamed of my ungratefulness.  I’ve actually proposed that we forego Xmas gifts entirely, but she won’t go for that either.)  The Fitbit was still in the box when Darian asked, in August, if she could take it with her to school.  She belongs to a cross-fit gym in Morgantown and really enjoys the program, and she thought it would help her keep track of her progress.  It also measures her sleep patterns.  To her alarm, the Fitbit has indicated that she’s a fitful sleeper and wakes up multiple times every night.  I know the same is true for me as well (see “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”, 9/16/15), so perhaps it’s a hereditary affliction.

In any event, my friend Carole showed me that my iPhone has been keeping track of my steps and certain other movement factoids all along without my even being aware or inputting any information – provided, of course, that I carry it with me, which of course I have immediately started doing.  So far, I’ve managed to walk more than 5,000 steps a day, but ideally I’d like to aim for 10,000 daily steps, which I have heard is an optimal daily allotment.

This is not the first time I’ve undertaken a fitness plan, but hopefully this one will stick.  I recently had a lovely dinner with an old school friend, and she recounted how, feeling creaky and out of shape, she had gone to the local gym but was utterly daunted by the prospect.  When she told her trainer that she couldn’t possibly lift X pounds of weight, or do X number of reps, or walk X minutes on the treadmill, the wise trainer (who I’m sure has faced this challenge from many of his trainees) proposed that she aim to do HALF-X, or even QUARTER-X, if that’s what it took to get her going, because the important thing was just to GET GOING.  I’ve taken that message to heart.

She also said that she eats half of each meal at one sitting and then saves the rest for the next day.  That’s another good idea that I need to put into practice, in conjunction with the flexible 1,500 calorie diet that my doctor gave me today.  Small steps will get me where I need to go, if I can just stick to it.

While I’m encouraged about my increased physical activity, and I’m optimistic that I can better control my food intake (I’ve done it before, I can do it again – I may even meet with a nutritionist so I can learn how to replace all the CRAP I eat with more healthy alternatives), there’s still an area of my life that I’m having a harder time gaining control over.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago (“My Life in Journals”, 8/17/16), I was going to try to wake up earlier every day so that I could better utilize my limited life hours.  While I’ve been forced to get up before I really want to on a few occasions over the past few weeks, given my druthers – in particular over Labor Day weekend, which I considered a huge waste of potentially pleasurable time – I stay in bed as long as I possibly can.  I don’t even sleep!  I just like to lie in my comfy bed with the boys (and usually Raven poking me in the face looking for attention), close my eyes and try to avoid thinking about all the things I have on my agenda for the day.  So that’s something I’m still working on.

But here’s a small step I can take to start my day on a more positive note:  In at least three separate “daily advice” posts I read this week, the message was that, if you wake up smiling, you improve your outlook on the entire day.  So even if I can’t rouse myself at an early hour, at least I can try smiling when I finally do get out of bed!

The Hurricane That Never Came

We spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Hermine, which had battered Florida’s West Coast and was now pummeling the Carolinas.  It was not going to make a direct hit on Long Island, but there was a significant risk of flooding and high winds, so the Long Beach Animal Shelter, having learned the lessons of Sandy, essentially emptied out the shelter, sending the dogs and cats to temporary housing until the threat passed.

The reaction of Long Beach residents to Superstorm Sandy – or, rather, the lack of reaction – was in part based on what had happened the summer before, with Hurricane Irene.  This was the perfect illustration of the risk of over-preparation.  Some folks were decidedly affected by Irene.  My neighbor John, who lives in a basement apartment, was flooded and displaced for nearly a year, and by the time he was finally able to enjoy his brand new couch in his renovated living room, he was watching the weather reports saying Sandy was going to be the “storm of the century”.  For John, Irene was devastating, but for most of the rest of us, Irene was a whimper, a waste of good storm preparedness.  Darian and I evacuated at the recommendation of the City of Long Beach, despite not wanting to, and went to stay with my sister, who lives more toward the middle of Long Island.  Well, we lost power at my sister’s house (the outage lasted nearly two days), but when we returned to Long Beach the afternoon following the storm, the clocks on the microwave and cable boxes were steady and unblinking.  The power had not gone off at all, and not a drop of water had entered the house.

So when the doom-and-gloom predictions for Sandy came over the airwaves, I suspect that people didn’t take them all that seriously, given the sputtering storm that Irene turned out to be for most of us.  This may have explained why they didn’t evacuate the Long Beach Animal Shelter (which was not being managed by Posh Pets at the time), despite the shelter being located mere yards from the unprotected shore of the Reynolds Channel.  As a result, when the waters were rising at a shocking rate, the shelter manager and his son had to scramble for their lives and the lives of the animals under their care, getting everybody up to higher ground on shelves and cabinets until help could come the following morning, when the survivors were finally moved to a temporary shelter just over the bridge in Island Park, where they stayed for over six months.  Miraculously, only two animals – an elderly dog and a semi-feral elderly cat – were lost.  But the traumatic experience served as a valuable lesson to the current managers of the shelter (as well as some of us volunteers who have been around since then), so we cleared the facility.  My ex, who is now also volunteering there (it’s a family affair!), was down at the beach, taxing his back to fill sandbags to be placed at the back doors.  All but a few cats and dogs were parceled out to shelter employees, friends and fosters, and the director and one of the employees planned on staying the night on site.  I took one of the cats, Jordan, home with me.

Poor Jordan did not have a great couple of days, spending most of his time under my couch.  The first night, I could hear him making his way around the dark apartment, wailing.  I kept saying, “Shhh, Jordan!” (as if a cat understands what “shhh” means!), just waiting for the downstairs neighbor lady to start banging on her ceiling.  On Monday night he quit the mewling, but I did hear a single cat battle, even though, for the most part, the cats had largely ignored him the entire time.  (Only Gizmo had any interest at all, following Jordan around with his tail metronoming, like “Who’s this now?”, more curious than aggressive, but it put Jordan off, understandably).

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Jordan is the terrorized black-and-white tuxedo in the middle, Munchie photo-bombing bottom right.

This morning, it took a bit of maneuvering to get him out from under the couch and into the carrier but I finally managed, and back to the shelter he went.  If I had been in my house, with the extra room where I could close him off from everyone else, I probably would have continued to foster him and allow him to get acclimated to the resident beasts gradually.  But there are just too many animals in too small a space for me to consider it right now.  Fostering again is one of the things I’m really looking forward to once we’re back home.

As it turned out, Hermine did not have the predicted effect.  Long Island residents were in prep mode from Saturday to Monday, and Labor Day weekend turned out sunny and beautiful, with very little breeze, although the seas were rougher than usual.  Experienced surfers – and there were MANY – were permitted to enter the churning waves, and the boardwalk was packed with lookie-loos as the beach itself was off-limits.  It was only today that the wind picked up and the skies turned gray, and we were expecting some evening showers.  But there was little, if any, damage from Hurricane Hermine, which is currently petering out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The water line never came up to the shelter, so they were spared without even needing the sandbags.  But the staff used the time of vacancy to give the place a seriously overdue scrubbing (which is impossible to do when it’s full of creatures), and it certainly served as kind of a drill for the NEXT TIME we get a serious storm warning – and we WILL, because, as I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before, PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LIVE ON BARRIER ISLANDS.  There was measured and well-planned activity as the staff and volunteers cleared the shelter, and not one ounce of panic.

But I worry that NEXT TIME may fall victim to the same mistrust of the officials (and don’t get me started on those meteorologists!) and doubt that affected the populace after Irene before Sandy rolled around:  “Well, we got all prepared for Hermine and it turned out to be nothing.  Maybe we could get away with not doing so much for this storm.”  As much as I tend to avoid thinking about disasters, having a plan is never a bad thing.  And now we all know what needs to be done with a few days’ notice and many hands making quick work of a potentially stressful situation.